Outdoors Category Sponsor: Mount Desert Island Hospital
A stop-by-stop road map to everything the Pine Tree State has to offer when the sun is shining, the ocean is warm(-ish), the festivals are plentiful, and the dining is al fresco. Join us on the hunt for the best Maine summer ever.
1. Get Through a Tight Spot on Tumbledown
“It’s a boy!” we once heard a hiker exclaim as her friend’s head popped out of Fat Man’s Misery, a narrow, vertical fissure in the steep field of boulders just below the gorgeous summit of Tumbledown Mountain in Township 6, near Weld. “Baby boy” then tossed his backpack onto the ledge and climbed out — the chimney-like passage being too tight for backpack wearing. Located on the rugged 2-mile Loop Trail, Fat Man’s Misery is studded with helpful, ladder-like iron rungs, but it’s still a knee-quaking experience (did we mention it’s often slick with trickling water?). To our minds, it’s the only way up Tumbledown that counts. Find the trailhead on the Weld-to-Byron Rd., 5.7 miles west of Rte. 142 (the second trailhead, coming from the east).
Selfie: We’ll accept a shot taken from below, as you climb through the opening, or one from above, as you emerge, ready to be baptized a Fat Man’s Misery survivor.
2. Ride Carrabassett Valley
In the summer, the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center is the hub of a 100-mile trail network that’s emerged as one of New England’s prime mountain-biking destinations. A mix of singletrack trails, rugged Jeep paths, and gravel roads, the potential routes are varied, flowy, and as welcoming to beginners as they are fun for veteran shredders. Try the Jabba the Hut trail, a 3-mile ride through mixed woods and the occasional rock garden, showing off views of the surrounding mountains. Or pedal in the shadow of Bigelow Mountain to grab lunch at Maine Huts & Trails’ Stratton Brook Hut. The Carrabassett Region of the New England Mountain Bike Association has detailed maps for download, and the pop-up Carrabassett Valley Bike Shop can rent you everything you need right out of the Outdoor Center. 3001 Touring Center Rd. 207-237-6830. carrabassett.nemba.org
Selfie: Safety first! We want to see you with your helmet on, next to a Sugarloaf Outdoor Center map kiosk. Bonus points if you’re really muddy and/or sweaty.
3. Take a Dip in Rattlesnake Pool
A swim in the bracing, emerald waters of Rattlesnake Pool is practically a mandatory finish to the 4-mile tromp over Blueberry Mountain at the southern end of Evans Notch. The easternmost pass through the White Mountains, the notch is one of Maine’s most beautiful pockets, yet it’s tranquil, drawing only a fraction of the crowds that flock to the coast or the nearby Presidential Range. Hidden pools and cascades abound; Rattlesnake, fed by a flume and waterfall, is among the easiest to access. That’s right: you can skip the mountain hike altogether (though we highly recommend it) and go straight to the pool from the Shell Pond Road gate, an easy, mile-long stroll along the Stone House Path. And relax, there are no rattlesnakes. Find the trailhead on Shell Pond Rd., about 22 miles north of Fryeburg on Rte. 113.
Selfie: We want to see you in that pool (don’t drop your phone), but we’ll settle for a shot with the pool behind you. (Your hair had better be dripping!)
4. Summit a Baxter Peak That’s Not Katahdin
Upwards of 30,000 hikers will climb Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak, this summer, reserving coveted campsites at Baxter State Park months in advance or queuing up before dawn to claim trailhead parking before the mountain reaches capacity. You know how many will see the knockout Katahdin views from the twin peaks of neighboring Doubletop Mountain? Or feel the winds atop 4,151-foot North Brother, Maine’s fifth-highest peak? Or enjoy 5 hard-earned and breathtaking miles above timberline along the Traveler Loop? Maybe 1,000 hardy souls. Baxter is about wilderness, and wilderness is (in part) about solitude, so ditch the Katahdin mule trail and explore one of Baxter’s less-heralded trails. baxterstateparkauthority.com
Selfie: A dozen-plus summits over 3,000 feet comprise the points in Baxter’s crown. Say cheese standing next to a summit sign or marker atop any one of them. South Turner Mountain is a fave, a steep 2-mile jaunt that rewards hikers with a summit vista of both Katahdin’s Pamola Peak and glittering Kathadin Lake.
5. Paddle to Green Island on Merchants Row
Composed of more than 50 islands just off Stonington, beautiful Merchants Row is legendary among sailors, attracting cruisers from around the world. It’s sweet for paddling too, especially since 10 islands are preserves owned and managed by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and 20 are open for camping, thanks to the Maine Island Trail Association. It’s an easy mile-long paddle from Stonington’s public landing to reach the 47-acre Green Island Preserve. Land your boat in the cove on the island’s southeastern side and climb the ladder on the granite wharf to access the trails. Don’t skip the swimming hole, one of Green Island’s several abandoned 19th-century granite quarries. Rentals and guided trips from Old Quarry Ocean Adventures, 130 Settlement Rd. 207-367-8977.
Selfie: You’ll find gorgeous scenery on Green Island for your Instagram, but to show us you were there, stand next to the “Welcome to Green Island Preserve” sign.
6. Sponsored: Get Physical on Mount Desert Island
Graceful peaks, challenging trails, some of the country’s loveliest coastline — MDI already had all this in 1897, when locals and summer rusticators came together to found Mount Desert Island Hospital. Now celebrating its 120th anniversary, the island’s oldest nonprofit is still bringing islanders and visitors together in appreciation of Maine’s quintessential outdoor playground. “People come here to live the outdoor lifestyle,” says wellness coordinator Kathy Mulligan. “There’s a connection between nature, health, and wellness that’s important to our community, and it’s central to our mission.” Last year, hospital staff demonstrated this commitment by launching the MDI Hospital Acadia National Park Centennial Challenge, hiking 145 miles in the park in a single week — then challenging other local groups to do the same. You don’t have to go that hard, but you’re not doing Maine summer right until you’ve gotten outside to play on MDI.
Selfie: A mid-stroll shot from Bar Harbor’s historic Shore Path (pick it up at Wayman Lane or the town pier). There’s no better way to experience town as the rusticators did. With historic estates on one side and stunning coastline on the other, it’s like stepping back in time. Think of it as your own personal walking tour, brought to you by our active friends at MDI Hospital.